BELVIDERE – More than 10 hours of discussing proposed revisions to Boone County’s wind farm regulations haven’t led to any decisions.
After hearing three more hours of testimony Tuesday night, the zoning board of appeals agreed to continue the public hearing to its Dec. 26 meeting.
There’s a possibility that a community-wide forum will be held sometime in 2013, in an effort to hear from a wider cross-section of the community.
District 3 county board member Pat Mattison made that suggestion, saying it would be good for the ZBA to hear from farmers, affected taxing bodies, the chamber of commerce, Growth Dimensions, the Boone County Farm Bureau and the developer, among others.
“There’s no need to rush into a decision on wind farms,” he said. “This is a $400-million investment; it’s north Boone County’s Chrysler.”
He suggested a forum be held at the community building in downtown Belvidere before a recommendation is made.
As a county board member, he said it would be difficult for him “to make a decision based on what has been presented so far.”
Beyond that the project manager for the developer, Mainstream Renewable Power, said Tuesday night it would be late next year “at the earliest” before it applies for a special use permit. The 8,000-acre project with up to 100 wind turbines is proposed for northeastern Boone County.
The ZBA’s decision means two county board members who worked hard on preparing revised regulations will not be part of deciding what changes, if any, are made. District 1 board member Marshall Newhouse is not running again while District 2 board member Laura Guerin-Hunt failed in her bid for re-election.
Among the newcomers vying for election on Tuesday are Republican Ken Grzybowski II and Democrat William Pysson in District 1; Republicans Karl Johnson (former board member) and Ron Wait and Democrat Francis J. Egan in District 2; and Republican Marion Thornberry and Democrat Craig Schultz in District 3.
Grzybowski and Johnson recently were appointed to the board to fill the unexpired terms of two members who resigned.
The old and the new
Some of the testimony offered during the Oct. 30 hearing had been heard before, focusing on setbacks, decommissioning and health, safety and welfare of county residents. But for the first time someone saying he represented the 65-plus landowners in Manchester and Leroy townships, who have signed up for wind turbines, was heard.
Jan Noble, who lives on the family farm in Leroy Township, said those landowners favored the 1,000-foot setback currently in place. He joined Mainstream project manager Vince Green in saying the proposed 2,000-foot setback, with a possible waiver to 1,200 feet, now under consideration, would likely kill the project.
Illinois is a “right to farm” state, he said, with equal protections afforded to the harnessing of wind energy. Those 65 landowners are asking the ZBA “to strike down the proposed text amendment,” establishing a new, 2,000-foot setback, he said.
He said those who entered into agreements with Mainstream received checks ranging from $500 to $800 for doing so. His was $500, he said.
There was more support for the wind farm, countering mostly testimony of opposition made during the first two hearings.
Marion Thornberry, legislative chairman for the Illinois State Grange, cautioned the state Legislature was considering a bill that would take control of wind farms away from counties. “It would be like Wisconsin, where you apply to the state,” he said. “We need to do something with this” before that happens.
ZBA member Joan Krumm said that board was obligated to hear what people had to say about the proposed text amendments. “That’s what we’re doing,” she said.
A lot of repetition
But Thornberry countered that the board chairman had said there should be no repetition from those testifying. “That’s all we’ve heard tonight,” he said.
“It’s all new to me,” Krumm said. She told Thornberry that as a member of Flora Grange “this (project) won’t affect you. You probably won’t be able to see a wind turbine.”
Eighteen people offered testimony. There were several power point presentations and a few turned in thick binders containing research to support their particular point of view.
With all of that information to go over ZBA member Darrel Davis suggested waiting until December to begin working on a recommendation for the county board to consider.
Krumm wondered why they couldn’t reconvene later this month, saying she thought all of that material would be a duplicate of what was heard earlier that night.
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